Oil City News is proud to introduce our new series, #StartUp. Throughout the next few months, #StartUp will take readers on a behind-the-scenes journey into the process of starting a new business, telling the stories of local founders and their businesses. If you have an idea for Casper’s next great StartUp, be sure to check out the Wyoming Technology Business Center’s Start Up Challenge, which will award three local businesses a share of $50,000 in seed money. Entries accepted through September 7th. The following article profiles a past winner of the Casper Startup Challenge, originally published in Oil City News in September 2017.
A lot of people meet work friends around the water cooler.
Some talk about sports, some complain about their bosses. In the case of advertising creatives Bradley Erickson and Eric Lewis, they talked gaming and programming.
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The two individually enjoyed dabbling in game design on their own well before they formed their studio together, Bison Kings Game Studios.
“It started out as a hobby, just as something fun,” said Erickson. “We started doing these things called ‘game jams’, where you get together for a weekend and meet up with people on the internet and build a game with a certain theme,” said Lewis. “It taught us to work fast.”
The games they created in such a short time had to be playable and workable from start to finish.
“It usually starts as an idea what one of us is inspired by,” explains Lewis on developing a game. “We have a step we call ‘grayboxing’, where we’ll build it with temporary assets to prove the idea.”
From there the process involves hundreds of hours of work. “In some ways it feels like you’re never done,” said Lewis.
A popular trend among gamers is not only playing games, but watching others play them in recordings on YouTube. One of their earliest games was played and recorded by someone in France who had 90,000 views. It was then the two decided to seriously consider starting the studio.
They discovered the Wyoming Technology Business Center, a small business incubator program with the University of Wyoming designed to help technology start-ups. They pitched the idea for a business and, to their surprise, were accepted. The two currently have an office in the WTBC’s Casper Incubator.
After months of work, their new game “Deadly Edge” was released in July.
“It’s a dark fantasy game, very similar to an old Super Nintendo game,” explains Erickson. It’s an old-school pixelated game where a character is trying to save a kingdom. “It has lots of sword fighting action,” said Erickson.
“It’s a very fun thing, it’s for people who want that nostalgia of the old games,” continues Erickson. “Plus it has a lot of new gameplay features in it.”
“A lot of Gen-X to Millennials, they remember it from their childhood,” said Erickson of pixelated games. The largest demographic for games are people in their late-30s, according to Lewis and Erickson. “They crave those things that they remember when they played Nintendo back in the day,” said Erickson. “The newer games are very beautiful to look at, but these old games had a certain character to them that people really like.”
“It’s almost like its own style of art,” added Lewis. “It’s not a limitation of the hardware, it’s become a style on its own.”
Like many small studios, Bison Design Studios releases their games on the popular gaming platform Steam. New game pitches are subjected to rounds of community voting, and “Deadly Edge” was quickly given the “green light”.
The two are busy working on a number of projects, including a virtual reality game, a 3D game and another pixelated game. “Whichever one of those feels the best, that’s the one we’ll dive into,” said Erickson. They’re also continuing to add layers to “Deadly Edge”, and are considering getting it translated for the growing Chinese gaming market.
The two partners not only want to grow their business, they’re also keen on seeing Wyoming’s creative and technology scene flourish. “It’s one of our side passions,” said Erickson. “Trying to get people (in Wyoming) interested in engineering, mathematics, and the arts.”
“There are so many artists and so many programmers here,” said Erickson. “I grew up in this town and it is a thing where most technology people are gonna leave,” said Lewis. The two are working on helping establish a community to help keep talent in Wyoming.
“The bottom line is there is a lot of opportunity in Wyoming, especially building your own business,” said Lewis. “If we can more technology companies in here, that would be fantastic.”
Bison Kings Games’ “Deadly Edge” can be purchased and downloaded here.